Physical activity – where do you fit?
There has been a constant tug of war as it relates to physical activity and exercise. Bodybuilders believe strength training is the epitome of fitness and would see Yogis as weak but bendy individuals.
Likewise, Yogis tend to think bodybuilders are just muscle-bound or tough people on the outside, unable to even hold their arms above their heads for more than 10 seconds or hold a plank position.
This could be debated until the end of time. Each physical activity has its pros and cons. The fact is, we're all individuals and unique, which means what works for you may not work for me and vice versa. Therefore, each person has to find what works for him or her.
Exercise is no different. Physical activity falls under four main categories:
1. Cardiovascular or endurance exercise - Improves blood circulation, which determines how well the body delivers and utilises oxygen, and, thereby, improves endurance and stamina.
2. Balance/coordination exercise: Improves the body's ability to maintain equilibrium during any daily activity.
3. Flexibility exercise: Improves the range of motion of joints and muscles for enhanced natural movement, posture and breathing.
4. Strength or resistance training: Improves muscle and bone strength by increasing muscle-tissue mass and the number of mitochondria that create energy in the body.
Physical activity is quite beneficial because it improves mental and physical health, improves functionality, longevity, great for weight management, reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and strengthens bones and muscles.
For people who are new to exercising, the process of finding out what category suits you can be a complete challenge.
Naturally, more people are drawn to cardiovascular exercise, because it requires little to no training.
Take running, for example. Since many of us are used to walking, it's quite an easy decision to take on running, simply because it comes naturally to us.
Placing one foot in front of the other requires little cognitive action, so you've already got the basics covered. However, it's not as easy a task as you might believe. It can get a bit technical if you've decided to up the ante by entering a marathon, but if you're just running to get the heart pumping, you should be fine.
Flexibility exercises can be a bit intimidating. A lot of people tend to hate to acknowledge it, particularly men, and especially those who've never practiced it during their younger years.
Whether it be dancing, gymnastics, pilates or yoga, flexibility can still be achieved with practise, but may require an instructor for safety reasons. Yoga has become extremely popular in Jamaica over the last decade and is one of the most sought-after flexibility exercises, with pilates on the rise.
Strength training can also be intimidating, especially for women. There has been a widely held misconception that lifting weights will make women bulky and gain a manly physique. On the contrary, weightlifting burns calories faster and can help individuals who so desire to lose weight quicker.
It also requires that one proceed with care, because it can cause harm if persons lift weights that are inappropriate for them, and it's even riskier if proper form is neglected.
When selecting a physical activity, ask yourself the following questions:
- What physical activity, if any, did I most enjoy as a child?
- What will I enjoy the most or what am I more comfortable with?
- Would I prefer being in a group or by myself?
- What time of the day is most convenient for me?
Start with something that you simply enjoy and work your way up to a more challenging form of exercise, should you wish. You can even mix things up if you are someone who gets bored easily.
There are people who strength-train religiously, but still take the time out to partake in flexibility exercise activities. Additionally, there are Yogis who do some type of cardiovascular activity before going into their flexibility routine.
It has a lot to do with what you think your body can or cannot handle, so listen to your body and trust yourself. That will help to prevent you from overextending yourself or doing something just because it seems to be the in thing right now.
I have dabbled in just about everything, and what I've discovered is that I don't love running as much as many others do. I have done a couple of half marathons, but that was just to accomplish a goal I set for myself. Now, I limit myself to running 5k, or less, because I find that I get bored during a run.
I can't get enough of resistance training and I come alive when I'm doing it, but, recently, I've found my body to be very stiff and inflexible, so I started a yoga session weekly and it has done wonders for me.
I still haven't mastered the Crow Asana, but I'm working on it. In fact, I get my best night of rest on the day I complete my yoga session, which has also enabled me to strength-train even more effectively.
Arm yourself with information and do not be led astray. Remember our body types are different and that might influence the physical activity we decide to participate in or we may have a weight goal to increase or decrease, and this will also influence our decisions.
Though the debate will never end, we can all agree on one thing - it is important to move your body, as physical activity, coupled with proper nutrition, can change your quality of life, and even add years to your life.
Take your time, because health and wellness is a lifestyle, not a destination.